2009 Annual Report (FGA Inc.)

FRIENDS OF THE GREENSPACE ALLIANCE

ANNUAL REPORT

November 2008 – October 2009

The Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital is the leading advocate of greenspace preservation and expansion in the National Capital region. This year we undertook a number of activities to help preserve significant greenspace in the capital and provided input on sustainable farming, development and transportation.

Members of the Board in 2009 were: Cheryl Doran (Chair), Sol Shuster (Vice-Chair), Chris Szpak (Secretary), Janice Seline (Treasurer), Barry George (Membership), Joseph Potvin, Christel Woodward, Mik Svilans and Amy Kempster.

Many thanks to Eric Cousineau for acting as Secretary in Chris’s absence, Juan (JP) Unger for his continued dedication in communications and Erwin Dreessen for his dedication to keeping our website up to date and his continued work to protect the Leitrim Wetland.

This year started on a very sad note by losing our dear friend, Bill Royds, at the age of 61 on February 20th. A memorial service for Bill was held on April 24th where we were able to celebrate his life with family and friends. Although Bill left us far too soon, he will never be far from our thoughts. On June 19th, the Poets’ Pathway Committee held a ”Concert for Bill” fundraiser at the National Library and Archives auditorium.

Main Activities

Cost claims against the Alliance

On December 10, 2008, the Divisional Court ruled against the Greenspace Alliance and awarded the City of Ottawa the right to claim costs from the Greenspace Alliance in the amount of $5,120. The Findlay Creek developers were awarded the right to seek compensation in the amount of $25,000 plus interest.

Members of the GA worked closely with Councillors on the City’s Public Participation Policy, seeking a clearer policy for protection of organizations and individuals who may want to challenge City of Ottawa decisions. We’d like to thank and congratulate Councillors Chiarelli and Cullen for their continued support for community organizations and respect for public participation. These two Councillors brought the issue forward to Corporate Services Committee where a new and clearer policy was debated that included “individuals”. Many thanks also to Councillor Doucet who recognized David McNicoll’s wonderful work over several years and four OMB defeated challenges. The City’s claim on the Greenspace Alliance was thereby nullified.

On July 10th, 2009, Tartan’s lawyer demanded payment. Janice, assisted by Linda McCaffrey of Ecojustice, was examined twice about our state of affairs.

In early March, we received approval of incorporation of the “Friends of the Greenspace Alliance”, with an effective incorporation date of February 26th, 2009. This protects future revenues of the Friends and allows the Alliance to continue its work, henceforth formally known as “Friends of the Greenspace Alliance”.

Leitrim: Appeal of Permit to Take Water

On May 5th, a decision was posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry (EBR registry), allowing a 10-year permit to take water – for the balance of the Findlay Creek Village development. We learned that this Permit application had generated two dozen comments!

On May 20th, we filed an application for Leave to Appeal the Permit to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). We also sought an interim Stay. The Leave application and the Stay motion were prepared under the leadership of Linda McCaffrey, Director of the University of Ottawa Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic. These and subsequent proceedings included lengthy Affidavits from Erwin Dreessen and Albert Dugal, with a total of 57 Exhibits. On July 29th, the ERT granted leave to appeal on three rather narrow grounds. While they hold potential to improve protection of the Wetland, the Decision meant in practice that the development itself will go ahead.

We then filed Notice of Appeal. More detail can be found on our web site, in the forum on “Saving Leitrim Wetland”.

Since then, under the leadership of Sol Shuster and Erwin Dreessen, working closely with Linda McCaffery, intense discussions have been under way towards a possible settlement with Tartan Developments and the MOE. If they fail, a hearing presided by the ERT’s Vice-chair, Paul Muldoon, is expected to be held in early 2010.

Efforts to protect the Leitrim Wetland have been exerted by many volunteers, especially the GA Directors, Albert Dugal, Dr. Fred Michel, Dr. Clarke Topp, Iola Price, and Erwin Dreessen. We are hopeful that these efforts will pay off in improved protection of the Wetland. Also, the clarification of the City’s policy regarding cost awards is a very important side-benefit obtained through action on this file.

Carp River Flood Plain

Members of the Alliance were active in the “Carp River Coalition” regarding Official Plan Amendment #77 about the Fernbank lands. On July 22nd we appealed this Amendment to the OMB; four developers also appealed. Our issues were summed up in four points:

  • that the integrated planning and environmental assessment process is not appropriate for a development of this magnitude;
  • that the Fernbank Community Design Plan is not in accordance with the Province’s recognition of a watershed as the appropriate area from which planning should proceed;
  • that the elevation flood levels will be increased by the implementation of the Fernbank CDP; and
  • that inconsistent Stormwater Management standards applied in the implementation
    of the Fernbank CDP.

A pre-hearing was held in September. A hearing is expected in January 2010.

Protection of Species at Risk

The federal wetlands through the Greenbelt and Transport Canada lands leased to the airport continue to be under threat. To date we have counted 57 Dead on Road turtles in this area. The Greenbelt and federal lands continue to be rich in Species at Risk and we will continue to fight to protect Species at Risk in the urban area.

Poet’s Hill and Poets’ Pathway

The Poets’ Pathway Committee, led by Jane Moore, continues to work to develop a heritage trail that honours Canadian poets and poetry, especially the Confederation poets, and that will wind through Ottawa and connect some of its green pathways.

This year they held two fundraisers to raise money for some plaques to be placed along the trail. The first fundraiser was held in June at the National Library and Archives Auditorium (in memory of Bill Royds) and featured two choirs and four poets. The September fundraiser was a pub concert that featured local young poets and bands.

Ottawa-Gatineau Sport-Ecology Park

Under the leadership of Joseph Potvin, the Greenspace Alliance has cultivated a vision for combined non-motorized water sports (eg whitewater canoe/kayak) with ecological rehabilitation in all the channels around the Eddy Dam as well as Brewers, Creek, involving the municipalities of Ottawa and Gatineau, and the NCC. The NCC has incorporated this vision into high level directions related to the National Capital Core Sector Plan, and in Gatineau, both the city’s planning and its recreation departments have brought the Sport-Ecology Park idea into their plans. The councillors for each of the related municipal wards in Ottawa and Gatineau have repeatedly expressed support. Ottawa city staff have held off specific commitments however, until its over-due sewage control retro-fitting project is completed. In late 2009 the Alliance is requesting for the new fiscal year that the NCC host a series of meetings involving municipal engineering and planning staff of both Ottawa and Gatineau, with invited guest presenters from other municipalities and experienced engineering/planning firms, to sketch some very general possibilities and outline the principal constraints related to this development concept.

Chelsea Agro-residential Development

In 2007, when a developer purchased 110 acres of cattle farmland on the south side of Chelsea, Quebec, the Alliance offered a suggestion that the plan be for an agro-residential development incorporating two commercial organic vegetable farms, and housing/yard features that made small-scale residential food cultivation easy. The question was whether the project could achieve increased agricultural productivity, ecological protection and better return on investment, all at the same time? The developer, Sean McAdam, thought this was a good idea, and his initial proposal to the municipality includes a new 30 acre family farm on one end, a new 15 acre cooperative farm on the other end, and a farmer’s market in the commercial area. Most residential units are grouped instead of spread out. In 2008 he created the “Common Ground Advisory Committee”, and invited the Alliance to participate along with a local organic farmer, the regional representative of Canadian Organic Growers, and others. McAdam submitted an initial proposal and plan to the municipality of Chelsea in 2008, and after a year has not yet received a formal reply. The Alliance sent a letter to the municipality asking for prompt assessment of the proposal, and the municipality indicated the process is underway. An important challenge is to have the provinces accommodate the combined agricultural and residential concept in zoning, and therefore in funding programs for agriculture.

Following municipal elections in November 2009, the Alliance plans to meet with the new mayor and council to discuss a number of topics, including this one. We will suggest that Chelsea submit a formal request to the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture for an interpretation or possibly amendment of provincial regulations to enable agro-residential options. In late summer 2009 the Alliance was approached by another Chelsea developer to advise on the agro-residential concept for another property. The Alliance is aware that this approach has its risks, of course, and our team is against the continued loss of arable land in our region and around the world. In our discussions with the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, we will be suggesting some criteria for when this option is, or is not appropriate.

Greenbelt Coalition

Under the leadership of Sol Shuster, 15 environmental and community groups, have formed the <<Greenbelt Coalition of the National Capital Region>> to participate in the NCC’s Review of their 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan [link is to GB Master Plan]. In addition, the Coalition can count on a number of resource persons who are specialists in various areas. To date, the Coalition has developed a preliminary a set of objectives, a vision for the National Capital Greenbelt, a set of Myths and Realities about the Greenbelt and the first of its Position Papers, on the City of Ottawa’s White Paper – Development in the Greenbelt. These documents and other information about the Coalition’s activities ca be found on its website <<www.greenbeltcoalition.ca>>. Many thanks to Ron Rancourt for developing and updating the website. Thanks also to the chairs of the working groups: Agnes Warda (Agriculture), Ann Coffey (Natural Environment) and Nicole Desroches (Communications and Outreach) and their members for their hard work in developing sector drafts. Finally, special thanks to Stan Rosenbaum in developing a comprehensive framework and initial drafts of the Coalition’s general position paper.

To assist with their consultations, the NCC has established a Public Advisory Committee (PAC) and has agreed to have five Coalition members participate on it.

Hunt Club extension project

In spite of the National Capital Commission’s strong stand on protecting the Greenbelt through the Greenbelt Master Plan Study, this project (phase 1) was permitted to proceed as the Federal and Provincial Governments Infrastructure money became available for this 30 million dollar road expansion through McEwan Creek.

Alliance members with approval from many members of the Greenbelt Coalition, met with the Greenbelt managers and Mr. François Lapointe of the National Capital Commission to discuss federal environmental opportunities that could exist for Canadians given this situation of building highways through sensitive wetlands and fragmenting the Greenbelt. We introduced the opportunity of trading/swapping city owned “Greenbelt land” for NCC Greenbelt land. Three areas were brought to their attention (the western extension of Hunt Club, the eastern extension through Blackburn Hamlet for the overpass, and the only registered Monarch (SAR) Waystation in Ottawa – south of Hunt Club). We await further news on this major federal environmental opportunity in the national capital.

Airport Master Plan

The Airport Master Plan continues to be a major concern for the Alliance. As the Airport Authority continues to plan for development of Business Parks over significant and sensitive Transport Canada lands, the National Capital Commission has hired consultant Ron Huizer to carry out an Ontario Wetland Evaluation Study. Depending on the results of Mr. Huizer’s work, the National Capital Commission will then put forward an Official Plan amendment to reflect the Study.

Albert Dugal, a botanist and wetland expert, has been studying the Transport Canada and National Capital Commission wetlands in the Airport area for over 30 years. Over the past two years, Albert has focused on studying the significant wetlands with the Species At Risk (SAR) Threatened Blanding’s Turtles. Together with Albert we have been compiling a binder of plant lists over several seasons (since Spring 2008), bird lists (from Mik Panesar), SAR Blanding’s Turtle sightings and various wildlife species. We have asked for a meeting with the NCC and Ron Huizer to review the binder.

National Capital Commission’s Urban Lands Study

Members of the Alliance anxiously await the next meeting of the Urban Lands Study.

Quarry operators and the potential destruction of Stony Swamp

Our work to protect the significant Ecosystem of Stony Swamp in the Greenbelt continued when records from the Lafarge Quarry/Golder Consultants were made available to us. We met with the Ministry of the Environment to review their findings and at the same time examined the Golder reports for the Tomlinson Quarry which is also draining into Stony Swamp. As each quarry has reports created by Golder Consultants it seems more suitable that a combined report reflecting both quarries is created – instead of at separate times and through separate reporting mechanisms. As well, as is done at the Stittsville Quarry, we are suggesting that the NCC request a biological analysis of the Species At Risk listed by MNR in Stony Swamp and that this become part of the yearly report to the Ministry of the Environment.

Development Charges City of Ottawa Advisory Committee

The Alliance participated in the Advisory Committee for the quintennial review of the City’s development charges. The Committee consisted of developers, the Federation of Citizens’ Associations and members of the Alliance. In short, rural development charges were increased significantly, suburban ones remained about the same and central urban ones were increased somewhat.

The Alliance wrote to Minister Watson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to ask that the Development Charges Act be amended to remove the 10% deduction of Transit capital expenditures.

The environmental benefits of transit are well known and placing transit capital on the same plane as roads would reduce the bias in our system towards car use as opposed to transit. Transit also has health benefits as reduction of smog helps reduce asthma and other lung problems.

Given that the city of Ottawa is soon to embark on building a light-rail system we feel it would be very useful if developers were to sponsor this change to allow full costs of transit capital expenditures. Minister Watson’s office wrote back to indicate that given these economically constrained times, now would not be the best time to institute more charges on these developments.

Fund Raising and Outreach

Plant Sale and Donations

Thanks to Albert Dugal, Christel Woodward and Janice Seline, we held our main fundraising activity this year — the “rare and unusual” plant sale at the Central Experimental Farm on an extremely cool Mother’s Day morning. The sale was a huge success for the Friends of the Greenspace Alliance; $815 was raised. Many individuals provided donations of plants and time to sell these plants on Mother’s Day.

Outreach and membership

The Alliance hosted tables at a number of environmental fairs, including the EcoFair and the Billings Bridge Wildlife Festival. In addition to the Alliance’s paid membership, about 120 persons subscribe to our free mailing list. The mailing list, which has been moderated by JP Unger, Ron Rancourt and Erwin Dreessen, helps citizens across the continent to remain informed on issues within the National Capital region. Ron Rancourt has served throughout as our web master and Erwin has been the major content contributor to the web site. The site averages about 200 visitors per day.

Several High school students were invited to participate in the semi-annual “Clean up the Capital” City of Ottawa event on Lester Road abutting the significant federal wetlands in the Greenbelt. The spring event was held on Saturday April 25th where 15 volunteers (teacher’s assistant, students, lions club, and community members) came out to clean up 25 bags of garbage, 10 tires, and many automobile parts.

On April 6, 2009, four eco-friendly students from Merivale High School visited Tributary 7 and 8, located just south of Hunt Club in the Greenbelt to work on a wetland restoration project. Due to urbanization in Blossom Park, Tributary #8 is a major source of water for Trappers Woods. The students worked hard to clean out the watercourse and remove debris to enlarge the reptile and fish habitat in the area. Two weeks later, the same students visited the Lester Road wetlands to search for hiding Salamanders under logs. Our salamander hunt was curtailed as the students noticed a Blanding’s Turtle basking on a log. Using binoculars the girls admired the yellow throat and shoulders of the medium sized Turtle for 35-45 minutes. Eight people witnessed the little fellow and its yellow markings. The whole experience taught the children about SAR, the threats to the Turtles’ habitat and their lives and the long process of asking for protection from various levels of Government.

Media Coverage

Both the Leitrim case and the cost awards issue caused the Alliance to issue press releases and there was wide media coverage of the latter issue as it came to City Council. The very interesting debate at Council on February 25th remains available on the City’s web site. We also appeared again on David Yazbeck’s show on CKCU Radio.